Splendid Pearls

Establishing the Beginning and End of Ramadan

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According to the Maliki school

Imam Malik has reported on the authority of ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“The month is 29 days (at least), so do not fast it until you sight (taraw) the crescent, and do not put an end to it until you sight it. If the sky above you is cloudy, you should compute for it a full 30 days.”

Ahmad Mayyara says:

The beginning of Ramadan is ascertained by establishing one of two things, either
1) the sighting of the crescent, or
2) completion of the 30-days of the month of Sha’ban.

Who establishes this for the Muslims?

This generally falls on the Muslim ruler and his appointed judges who establish it in their jurisdiction on behalf of the Muslims.

Whoever sights the crescent will give testify to a judge. The judge will assess the witness’ character and uprightness before it is accepted.

Given that we need at least two upright witnesses or a group of them to establish a valid sighting, this task can only be done by legal authorities.

What to do in non-Muslim lands, in the absence of a Muslim ruler or a Qadhi?

In the absence of a Qadhi/Imam or a Jama’ah that can establish these things, one can establish Ramadan by either:

  1. hearing of a sighting from a trustworthy person, or
  2. sighting the crescent oneself.

Global sightings are established in four ways:

  1. News of the sighting is brought from a person who himself heard it from a trustworthy person.
  2. By testimony of someone who heard the news of the sighting from another trustworthy person.
  3. By someone who heard the news of the sighting from the testimony of another.
  4. By means of testimony of someone based on the testimony of another person.

In all four cases, the judgement is the same: if the testimony, which is transmitted, is confirmed as being credible by the person in authority, like the Khalif or a local person in authority, then fasting is obligatory upon all those whom the news reaches and is not classed in the category of testimony. What’s important is that certainty be obtained and uncertainty removed.

Also radio, television, etc. are acceptable means for establishing a sighting from another region. [Ashal AlMasalik]

Is it a condition that the radio/television reporters be Muslim for their report to be acceptable?

As mentioned by AlQarafi, it is not a condition that they be Muslim as it is not a testimony but a transmission (khabar). This point is reiterated by Yusuf Dijawi.

Brief discussion on regional sighting vs global sighting

From the perspective of the Maliki school, there is no such thing as ‘global sighting’.

The discussion revolves around local sighting and regional sighting, without one established sighting ever extending to the entire globe.

  • Local would be defined as an area that shares the same sunrise/sunset time.
  • Regional would be limited to no more than the distance of 4000 km. This is based on ‘vast distance’ being the area as far apart as Andalus and Hijaz.

    “Sightings are not binding on lands that are as far apart as Andalus (Spain) and Hijaz (KSA) according to consensus.” — Ibn Juzay’s Qawanin
<sub>Distance between Andalus and Hijaz<sub>

Ahmad Dardir wrote as follows in his super-commentary on Khalil’s Mukhtasar, Ash-Sharh al-Kabir:

“Fasting is generally binding on all the other countries, whether near or distant. No consideration is paid in that connection to whether the distance is such that a prayer can be shortened, or whether the rising points of the moon (=start times of lunar days) are the same or differ. Fasting is incumbent on all those to whom a sighting has been transmitted.”

Dusuqi, ‘Illish, AdDijawi and others commented on this passage and pointed out the earlier authorities in the school (Baji, Ibn Abd AlBarr, Qarafi, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Arafah) who limited the ‘all other countries’ to regions within 4000 km but not more than that.

The one who sees the crescent vs the news of it reaching those who didn’t see it themselves:

Regional Sightings are established in two ways:

The one who sees the crescent himself is obligated to fast.

The one to whom the news of the sighting reaches, it is established by either,
a) the testimony of two upright, male-witnesses, or
b) news of the sighting reaches him through various independent sources, eliminating the possibility of it being a concoction.

Following astronomical calculations

Ibn Nafi’ narrates that Imam Malik said:

If an Imam does not fast according to the sighting of the crescent and does not break his fast according to the sighting of the crescent but instead relies on astronomical calculations then he is not to be followed or obeyed (in that regard).

Ahmad Dardir said:

“The start of Ramadan is established either by completing the thirty-days of the month of Sha’ban or by the sighting of the crescent, not by astronomical calculations according to the mashhur because the legislator—Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala—made the ruling dependent (only) on the sighting of the crescent or the completion of thirty-days for Sha’ban.”

Ahmad Zarruq said:

“It is apparent from his (ibn Abi Zayd) words that no attention should be given to those who follow astronomical calculations, and this is the truth.”

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